can you use any printer for sublimation

Can You Use Any Printer for Sublimation?

The straightforward answer to the question can you use any printer for sublimation would be no.

If I were to give a direct answer, I would say that you should get a sublimation printer. Plus special ink, and sublimation transfer paper. And then you can do whatever projects you want without any complications.

These specifically designed sublimation printers are actually harder to find for some people and they tend to be more expensive.

So, there’s an alternative.

The alternative can be cheaper, work just as beautifully as dedicated sublimation printers. And it can be easier to find and more accessible.

To answer the question can you use any printer for sublimation we’re actually going to focus on converting inkjet printers. Basically, we’ll focus on Epson inkjet printer.

Check out my reviews for the best sublimation inks if you want to understand exactly what this type of conversion requires.

Can You Use Any Printer for Sublimation? Converting Inkjet Printers

Thus, we arrive at our second option and this is the path that most people prefer taking.

I’m talking about converting certain inkjet printers.

It’s an option that is popular among people who do this as a hobby and among people who transform sublimation into a business.

Indeed, while not any printer works for sublimation, there are specific inkjet models that are very popular and that can be converted to sublimation.

These converted models work very well and they’re overall fantastic.

Which inkjet printers can be converted

One very popular example for conversions are Epson inkjet printers.

In fact, when I reviewed the best sublimation printers for beginners, Epson printers, through conversion, were among my top recommendations. They’re truly some of the best printers for sublimation even if they are sold as inkjet printers.

On the other hand, HP and Canon inkjet printers cannot be converted for sublimation. We’ll have to have a more in depth discussion about the elements that make this conversion possible.

All in all, this article answering the question can you use any printer for sublimation can be a tad more complex than it would seem at first glance.

Suddenly, we have to see if we want to convert an inkjet printer to sublimation or if we want to skip this conversion and buy a sublimation printer directly.

With all the other resources we need for our projects: special ink and sublimation transfer paper.

Plus a sublimation heat press because we can transfer our designs from paper to media without one.

Converting inkjet printers: void warranty

However, the warranty is void if you do the conversion because these models can be used for sublimation but they are originally designed as inkjet printers.

The void warranty is the only downside but otherwise the conversion can work beautifully.

Can You Use Any Printer for Sublimation? Yes and No

As I’ve already mentioned in my introduction, I either recommend:

  • buying a sublimation printer if you want to sublimate
  • or converting specific inkjet printers, especially from Epson, for sublimation

These are the two options we have to choose from.

Most people will actually prefer the conversion method because most of these inkjet printers are quite affordable and they’ll work beautifully for any sublimation projects you want to attempt

What is a sublimation printer?

In order to understand what we need for sublimation, we need to first understand what characterizes a printer that is built specifically for this purpose.

The printing method of the dye sublimation printer is to push and heat a dye-based ribbon by a thermal print head. The ribbon holds solid inks.

These inks are special, they’re known as disperse dyes. They’re also more commonly known as dye-sub inks or just simply as sublimation ink.

When the printer heats the ink it causes it to sublimate.

That means that it skips the liquid form and transitions directly into a gaseous state. And that’s where these special printers get their name from.

When we do sublimation, the printer diffuses the ink dyes to desired positions into a paper that is called sublimation transfer paper.

We then take the sublimation transfer paper that contains our design and heat it up until it disintegrates into the fabric.

According to, the process of sublimation shirt printing might cost more than other methods but it lasts longer.

Moreover, it will not crack or peel over time like other shirt printing methods.

Thus, it’s well worth investing into a sublimation printer. Or converting an Epson inkjet printer to sublimation. Both methods work beautifully and we can have success with both models.

What we can sublimate on to

We usually use sublimation for shirt printing. Shirts are the most common objects for imprinting a certain design.

But we can also sublimate on ceramic mugs, ceramic tiles, MDF coasters, mylar mags, glass sheets, aluminum sheets, polyester bags, aprons, cushion covers & mouse mats, metal tumblers, etc.

Polyester materials offer the best results.

Moreover, polyester materials that are white or light in color are the best option for stunning designs that pop-up.

It can also be used on materials that have a specialist polymer coating or a sublimation coating (coasters, mouse pads, mugs, glass, metal, stainless steel, etc.).

Natural fibers, like cotton, contain no polyester so they have nothing for the sublimation ink to bond to.

If you have a material that is not sublimation ready, then you can use a sublimation polymer coating to prepare the material.

Can you do sublimation with a regular printer?

There is one specific type of regular, inkjet printer that can be used for sublimation.

These are called printers that use a Micro Piezo printing head.

The other category of inkjet printers is called thermal inkjet printers (HP, Canon, Dell or Lexmark) and these cannot be used for sublimation.

Thus, if we want to make a conversion and we don’t want to buy a dedicated sublimation printer, we must look for piezo inkjet printers.

Specifically, we must look for those manufactured from Epson because those are some of the best and the easiest to use, even for beginners. And they will also work as some of the best sublimation printers for t-shirts.

Epson has patented the Micro Piezo print heads, which means that most Epson inkjet printers can be converted.

However, just check out that you can easily find sublimation inks compatible with the Epson you want to buy. That’s the thing you must be totally sure of.

Piezo inkjet printers work for conversion

Piezo inkjet printers use printer heads containing special crystals to which electric current is applied. It is a technology often found in large character inkjet printers.

Piezo models have a whole range of advantages over thermal inkjet printers.

The major one and the one that interests us is that piezo models are compatible with a wider variety of inks, including sublimation ink. But you need to find the ink that is compatible with your specific model.

Piezo printers are also user-friendly and easy to set-up. The conversion is also easy to make, just insert the sublimation ink cartridges, use sublimation paper and you’re good to go.

The cartridges can be separated from the printhead and replaced whenever you need and want.

Nowadays, most models will come with ink tanks so they’re very easy to fill with sublimation inks. Most will work on 4 colors but there are a few models that will work with 6 colors.

Due to all their many advantages, piezo inkjet printers are more expensive than thermal inkjet models.

However, most of them can be cheaper than dedicated sublimation printers. That’s great to know in this article answering the question can you use any printer for sublimation.

Best Epson printers for sublimation

Epson is actually the only brand that succeeds in doing two things.

They sell dye-sublimation printers, like the Epson SureColor F170. This one is equipped with dye-sublimation technology so it doesn’t need to be converted.

The SureColor series contains some of the best sublimation printers on the market. And, of course, we have enough options for finding the best Epson sublimation printer.

The series includes models like the SureColor F170 as the entry-level, affordable one. Then, we have the SureColor F570, which is great for starting a business but it will cost around $2,500-$2,900.

But they also sell piezo inkjet printers that can be converted by using sublimation inks. Those are the EcoTank and WorkForce series.

The Epson EcoTank series comprises piezo printers that can be converted to sublimation.

The EcoTank ET-2803 and EcoTank ET-2850 are two of the most popular for home sublimation conversions. Home crafters love these two models that can be found for prices between $200-$350.

Thus, these two EcoTank models are among the cheapest answers to the question can you use any printer for sublimation.

It’s clear to see why Epson is one of the best in the market. And it’s certainly the most popular sublimation brand.

In order to convert specific Epson inkjet printers for sublimation we need to make sure that we have access to two components.

First we need sublimation paper because this is the medium on which the image is printed.

And we absolutely need sublimation ink that is compatible with the model we want to convert. If you find the sublimation ink for your specific Epson model then you’re good to go.

Epson SureColor F170

If you want a dedicated dye-sublimation printer but you have a budget under $500, the Epson SureColor F170 is going to be perfect.

It’s a compact, tiny thing. I don’t know how good it will be for those wanting to make a business in this area but it can work for amateur crafters quite well.

The 8.5 inches max print (maximum paper width) will certainly be a con for a few buyers but this is an entry-level model. The 8.5 inch max print will be perfect for most of us.

Epson SureColor F570

With a price starting at $2,500 the SureColor F570 can be the perfect investment for those who want to start businesses.

I don’t think that amateur crafters will be willing to spend so much on a sublimation printer but it’s a top choice for businesses.

The 24 inch max print is one of its top selling points.

Epson EcoTank ET-2803

The EcoTank ET-2803 is among the cheapest piezo inkjet printers that can be converted to sublimation.

With a price around $200-$300, depending if you get it on sale or not, this can be perfect for beginners and for amateurs.

The 8.5 inches max print matches what the SureColor F170 offers but for a cheaper price.

Epson EcoTank ET-2850

If you can’t find the EcoTank ET-2803, there’s the EcoTank ET-2850 with the same 8.5 inches max print.

However, maintenance can be a problem for the EcoTank ET-2803 and ET-2850 because they use ink pads instead of a tank to collect waste ink.

If you do a lot of sublimation as a hobby, you might fill your waste ink pads sooner rather than later.

However, there are YouTube videos that teach us how to change the ink pads. And then you have to reset the ink pads, for which you’ll also find YouTube tutorials.

You just have to keep in mind that this type of maintenance might be needed for the EcoTank ET-2803 and ET-2850, which might be something that some users are not willing to put up with.

Epson EcoTank ET-15000

The advantage is that the EcoTank ET-15000 comes with a special maintenance box that can be bought to be replaced instead of waste ink pads, like the cheaper EcoTank ET-2803 and ET-2850.

Nevertheless, the ET-15000 is also at least two times more expensive.

The advantage is that it prints up to 13 x 19 inches so it’s definitely a beast on another level.

Even if it’s a bit pricey, many buyers call it the best sublimation printer so that’s certainly an amazing advertisement for the ET-15000.

Still, I want to remind all potential buyers that if you convert an inkjet printer to sublimation by inserting sublimation ink, then that voids the warranty because. Only the Epson SureColor models are sold as dye-sublimation models. That’s a con you have to keep in mind if you convert a model.

I also recommended it as one of my top picks for the best Epson sublimation printer.

Epson WorkForce WF-7720

This is a pretty expensive printer that can be converted to sublimation. With a price over $1,000 it’s certainly not cheap.

However, there are plenty of users who call it absolutely perfect for sublimation. Even beginners love using this one. The top tray fits 13 x 19 inch sheets of sublimation paper. It’s a beast, no doubt about it.

The Epson SureColor F570 fits a 24 inch max print so that one is even bigger and it’s also a dedicated sublimation printer that doesn’t need any conversion. However, it’s about twice the price of the Epson WorkForce WF-7720 so there’s definitely a huge price difference between the two.

The much cheaper Epson WorkForce Pro WF-7310 that costs around $200-$250 can also be converted to sublimation so that’s a much cheaper alternative for the same usage of 13 x 19 inch sheets of sublimation paper.

Which regular printers can’t be used for sublimation?

The ones that can’t be converted are inkjet printers that use a thermal printing head.

That means that we can’t use inkjet printers from HP, Canon, Dell or Lexmark.

As we’ve already established, only piezo printers are suitable for sublimation conversions. And that’s an important answer to the question can you use any printer for sublimation.

The thing with these inkjet printers from HP, Canon, Dell or Lexmark is that we can use sublimation paper in them and it won’t affect them in any way.

But the component we can’t use is sublimation ink. And we certainly can’t sublimate without sublimation ink.

On the other hand, specific models from Epson will be compatible with sublimation ink that is easily available at a decent price. That’s the difference between certain Epson models and all the other inkjet models from HP, Canon, Dell or Lexmark.

If you come across a website that recommends the Canon Selphy CP1300 for sublimation, I would basically disregard that recommendation. I won’t go into the complications of why the Canon Selphy CP1300 would never be a choice of mine because this article is not meant for that.

But you can read all the reasons here from someone who explains everything really well.

What brand of printers can be used for sublimation?

The most popular brands are Epson and Sawgrass. These are the two main brands if we’re looking to do sublimation.

HP also sells the HP Stitch S500 64” Dye-Sublimation Printer that costs about $20,000-$25,000. Only businesses would desire such an expensive piece of equipment.

I’ve already mentioned the Epson printers that can be used for sublimation so you can check those out above.

Brother is the second brand that has printers that can be converted for sublimation but their models are not my favorite.

Sawgrass dye-sublimation printers

The ones from Sawgrass are dedicated sublimation printers so we don’t need to do any conversion in order to use them. They’re pretty decent but they’re also quite expensive.

There are two popular models from them: the Sawgrass SG500 and the Sawgrass SG1000.

The Sawgrass SG500 is the cheapest of the two, although at a price around $600-$700 I certainly wouldn’t say that it’s cheap. It’s certainly expensive but it can work beautifully.

Sawgrass describes the SG500 as the only desktop printer designed for sublimation. It prints on media up to 8.5 x 14 inches so it’s a decent size.

On the other hand, the Sawgrass SG1000 is considerably more expensive. But it prints on media up to 11 x 17 inches so it’s slightly bigger but not as big as the Epson SureColor F570m which is also considerably more expensive.

Of course, all these printers require sublimation inks, sublimation paper, and a heat press and butcher paper.

All in all, the answer to the question can you use any printer for sublimation is a complex one but you’ll actually easily find the model for you if you’re looking at amazing brands like Epson or if you check out the dedicated sublimation printers from Sawgrass.